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Photo of Detective Murdoch (Yannick Bisson). // Photo courtesy of CBC.

Murdoch Mysteries is a fantastic show that highlights Canadian history

By Cristina Paolozzi, April 8 2020—

This self-isolation period that we are all experiencing has given many individuals, myself included, a chance to watch a little bit more Netflix than we are probably happy to admit. Hit shows like Love is Blind or Tiger King have gotten a lot of attention over the past couple of weeks, which is fair, as those shows are both hilarious and ridiculous. However, there is definitely a show that I believe has been effectively slept on and definitely in need of more attention than I think it’s been getting. The CBC’s hit television show, Murdoch Mysteries has been the focus of my social isolation. Not only is this show highly entertaining and hilarious, recounting the series of crimes Detective Murdoch solves with his friends in Station House 4, I also believe it is a fantastic source for historical representation of late 19th century Toronto. 

Murdoch Mysteries has been running since 2008, attempting to recreate the city streets of late 19th century Canada for audience’s viewing pleasure. For the armchair historian, it is possible to catch the nuances of Victorian society — from mourning gowns to death portraits, bicycles to early cameras. These little props dotted throughout the series provide a realistic sense of how societal norms interacted with the latest technology. It also shows how quickly technology advances as Murdoch himself is a bit of an inventor, using things like fingerprints and UV light to track down murderers. The ways in which crimes are solved in shows like CSI: Miami or Criminal Minds aren’t too different, although the equipment in Murdoch Mysteries has a bit more of a steampunk look. Although this show is based in Victorian Canada, there is a stereotype that it might be boring or more intended for an older audience. This is completely unfounded, as this show not only explores the interesting and problematic aspects of Canadian society at the turn of the 20th century, but is an entertaining and exciting muder/mystery show that follows a Sherlock Holmes-esque main character who navigates a stirring love-life with humor and wit in tow. 

One of my favourite parts, and one of the best ways to interact with history, are the individuals who play recurring roles on the show. Politicians like Wilfrid Laurier and Theodore Roosevelt, inventors like Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell and even performers like Harry Houdini give more historical context to the types of ideologies or entertainment that were popular, as well as provide eccentric personalities to the plotlines. These characters aren’t so obscure that people who don’t have an affinity towards history can still enjoy the show, however, for people who do really enjoy history, these characters are fun surprises that really elevate the show. 

Murdoch Mysteries is also a great way to support and contribute to Canadian content. The show employs Canadian actors not only for the major roles, but also to play smaller parts or even recurring roles, creating a network of local talent, helping to build credibility and awareness that is popular with audiences everywhere. Canada has always experienced an unfair advantage when it comes to American entertainment and the exposure that uniquely Canadian stories have on a global stage. Shows like Schitt’s Creek, Little Mosque on the Prairie and Degrassi are more examples of how influential Canadian content is on our collective narrative, and how important and successful Canadian shows can be on an international level. 

As social isolation continues to be implemented across the country and around the world, escaping with a new Netflix show is just the thing that can take your mind off of the troubling news from everyday life. Murdoch Mysteries is definitely something I encourage you to start.  

This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.

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